Israel Adesanya to defend middleweight title against Alex Pereira in UFC 281 headliner

The UFC has its main event at Madison Square Garden.

Israel Adesanya will defend his UFC middleweight title against former rival Alex Pereira in the headliner of UFC 281 on Nov. 12 in New York, Adesanya announced Friday on SportsCenter.

Pereira holds two wins over Adesanya in kickboxing, including one by knockout. ESPN ranked Adesanya tied for third on its pound-for-pound MMA list. At middleweight, Adesanya is No. 1 and Pereira is No. 7. Pereira, a former two-division Glory Kickboxing champion, beat Adesanya in kickboxing once by decision in 2016 and then again a year later by knockout. .

Adesanya (23-1) is undefeated in his career at middleweight. The Nigerian-born New Zealand resident has won three straight since falling in a light heavyweight title fight against Jan Blachowicz in March 2021. Adesanya, 33, has five successful title defenses at middleweight, holding the undisputed title since October 2019.

Pereira (6-1) is coming off a first-round knockout of Sean Strickland at UFC 276 last month, the same card in which Adesanya successfully defended his title against Jared Cannonier. The Brazilian slugger has five finishes in six professional MMA wins since stepping out of kickboxing.

Pereira, 35, is 3-0 in the UFC with a pair of $50,000 Performance of the Night bonuses to his name.

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